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Expectations for 2012: Utah's toughest opponent (not named USC)

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We're rolling on, inching closer to the 2012 season. One day, soon, in fact, we'll be on the eve of the season and oh what a joyous day it will be. But until then, we'll just talk about it ... and talk about it ... and talk about it.

So, like, I know we all expect USC to be the hardest game on this year's schedule. They're totally a legitimate contender for the national championship and could roll into SLC ranked #1 nationally, and will certainly be a top-five team barring a loss (that Stanford game could definitely undo all our dreams of a showdown between undefeated, highly ranked teams).

Including them in the question just seems unfair. We all know they're the toughest opponent. But what about the other teams on Utah's schedule? Who's the toughest there?

Utah State had a really good season last year (really good by Aggie standards) and this year's game is in Logan, so, that could be tough...right?

BYU is a rivalry game and though we feel pretty confident the Utes will win, even by a comfortable margin, history does indicate this is generally a tough game to play.

ASU is our first true roadie of the season and they did kick our butts in Salt Lake last year. Still, a new coaching staff and, more importantly, an inexperienced team, should position the Utes for a better outcome than last season.

UCLA is another road game and could prove tough, as the last time Utah traveled to Pasadena, it did not end well.

The same could be said about Oregon State.

Cal? They worked us up and down the football field last season. Fortunately, this game is at home.

Washington State brings in a new coaching staff, but still has talent issues. Yet they almost knocked the Utes off in Pullman last year and should be improved this year. Will it be enough?

Their instate rival, Washington, gave Utah its first Pac-12 home loss last year and sent the season into a mini-spiral that almost leveled our inaugural year in the conference. This game is much later in the season and Washington has some key replacements to make. But the game is in Seattle, not an easy place to play (even if the game won't be played at Husky Stadium).

Arizona should be much better this year and will contend for a bowl berth. With Ritch Rodriguez now on board, there is a potential foundation for something good. Of course, the game is at Rice-Eccles Stadium, so, that should be a boost to the Utes.

Colorado. 'Nuff said.

My pick? Washington. They're a good team, an up and coming program, and tough as nails at home, err, as home as Century Link Field can get.

What's yours?